The bookmobile and me

April 10th, 2018 by Ken

April is National Library Month, and Wednesday, April 11, is National Bookmobile Day.

No one is certain when the bookmobile started, but it’s safe to say that it wasn’t to far behind the Model T.

Bookmobiles are still active around the United States, and particularly in rural areas, although some urban areas are finding other ways to bring books to kids.

My experience with the bookmobile started in the 1950’s when I was a kid growing up in rural Tumwater on the Prine Road – an area then not much different from today.   We lived in an old logging camp surrounded by piles of sawdust and acres of slabs (pieces cut off the trunk of the tree to make them square.)

It was a long walk to the main road, if you could call it that.   The road was gravel, as most rural roads in Thurston County were then, and any car traveling along the route threw up large clouds of dust – although there seldom were any cars at all.

I attended Tumwater Grade School, and the bus picked us up on the main road.    I enjoyed school, but like all kids, I looked forward to summer.  But, there was one thing missing – mental stimulation.   We had no television and no radio.  Books were my only means of relaxation.

It was OK during the school year, but when summer came, I had to depend on the bookmobile which came twice a month and stopped on the main road.

After finishing all the books I had, I began to count the days until the bookmobile arrived.

I waited out on the road worried that I may have picked the wrong day, or that something may have happened, or that the bookmobile had decided not to stop here, because I was the only one waiting for it.  But, it always came.   The librarian greeted me by name as she opened the door.

I looked over every book in the bookmobile, spending more time in the sections that I loved – history and biography.  Each one I picked up seemed to be the one I wanted and I began piling them in the aisle.  When I got as many as I could carry, I checked them out.  Sometimes the librarian would make a comment, but usually she just let me wander and look.  One time I remember she said, “Leave some for the other kids.”

It was nearly a quarter a mile from my house to the main road and I was loaded down with books.  It was quite a chore carrying them all back to the house – but I couldn’t wait to start reading.

I never gave much thought to the bookmobile.  It was just something that came, and gave me something to do during the summer, when I wasn’t working in the berry fields or splitting wood or doing other yard work.

So, I’m a testimonial to the bookmobile, and thankful for  the women that drove the buses and the library patrons who supported bringing books to rural kids.

Posted in History, The Real News

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